Summer of Psalms






By Riverwood Elder Matt Townsley


Last week, we reflected on Psalm 118:1-4.

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever!
Let Israel say,
“His steadfast love endures forever.”
Let the house of Aaron say,
“His steadfast love endures forever.”
Let those who fear the Lord say,
“His steadfast love endures forever.” (ESV)

The first verse in which the author (likely King David) sings praises to God for his love that endures forever.  And in the next verses, the author suggests who ought to be singing these praises: an entire nation (Israel), the priests (house of Aaron) and anyone else (those who fear the Lord) which includes you and me!  Yet, when riots, protests, a pandemic and so many other crazy things are happening around us, life can seem so bleak.

First, a reminder:
How are you doing in the summer giving thanks challenge?  In case you missed last week’s email, here’s a quick recap based upon the theme from Psalm 118:1-4

Beginning June 1 and ending July 31, send a text or email to someone who will keep you accountable (and guys, if you need a partner, my contact information is below).

In that simple daily message, note two things: 1)a truth about God to give thanks, and 2)something else for which you’re thankful.

Finally, I think it is important for us all to reflect upon current events taking over the news headlines.  Regardless of your perspectives on the problem or solution, I hope we can all agree to pray.

2 Chronicles 7:14 says:
If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

Will you pray with me?
In hearing from our ministry partner, Patrick Ray, in North Minneapolis, many of our brothers and sisters in Christ have the potential to be in harm’s way right now. As followers of Jesus, we know that God is the ultimate healer.  May each of us humble ourselves, seek His face, and pray that He will heal our land.

Summer of Psalms

Summer of Psalms

by Matt Townsley

Growing up, the Memorial Day weekend indicated the beginning of
summer in the Townsley household.  It meant the school year was wrapping up and warm clothes were being traded in for cut offs and tank tops (yes, I was a child of the ’80s and ’90s).  Because of the pandemic, this summer may seem a bit different for many of us –spending time at the city pool is still up in the air and/or the sports season is still in question.

Regardless of our perspective on things opening up too soon or not soon enough, one thing is for certain– COVID-19 has stirred up A LOT of emotions among us.  This is why I am so excited to kick-off our “Summer of Psalms” blog.

Many scholars believe the book of Psalms was written by two authors who both express a wide variety of emotions to or about God.  Whether crying out to in distress because the thought of watching your kids for another few months seems unbearable or feeling overjoyed the family trip out state was postponed, we can all relate to at least one of the 150 chapters in this Old Testament book.

This week, we are taking a look at Psalm 118:1-4 which reads:

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever!
Let Israel say,
“His steadfast love endures forever.”
Let the house of Aaron say,
“His steadfast love endures forever.”
Let those who fear the Lord say,
“His steadfast love endures forever.” (ESV)

Note the first verse in which the author (likely King David) sings praises to God for his love that endures forever.  And in the next verses, the author suggests who ought to be singing these praises: an entire nation (Israel), the priests (house of Aaron) and anyone else (those who fear the Lord) which includes you and me!

Yet, when summer plans have been changed, loved ones seem so far away via FaceTime and Zoom, and washing hands fifteen (or is it fifty?) times per day is getting old, it can be hard to sing praises to God.

Within the first verse, I see an important phrase, “for he is good.” We can give thanks to God because of who he is and that “who” never changes. Here at Riverwood, Erin frequently reminds us to “live like Jesus lived and love like Jesus loves.” According to 1 John 4:7-8, the love we have for others is an outpouring of God’s love for us. When we (and that “we” includes me) consider how much God loves us, we will praise Him regardless of the circumstances.

Will you join me in a simple summer challenge?
Beginning June 1 and ending July 31, send a text or email to someone who will keep you accountable.

In that simple daily message, note two things:
1)a truth about God to give thanks, and 2)something else for which you’re thankful.
As we give daily thanks this summer, I believe this challenge has the potential to remind us that “His steadfast love endures forever.”



By Erin Bird

Today we have the joy of completing our series in Psalm 23. We already looked at the first part of the final verse, so this week we finish things up with the last half of verse 6, which says…

“…and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

As I studied this week’s section of Psalm 23, I learned that the Hebrew word traditionally translated “dwell” could also be translated “return.”

When I learned this, it got me wondering: Was David creating a bookend to his poem? He began the psalm with “sheep” imagery, then in verse 5 switched to “house” language. I had always just assumed David was continuing with the “house” language as he completed his poem (“dwell in the house of the Lord forever”), but now I wonder if he is combining the two images as he concludes his work of art.

Because if  the “sheep” language is actually being recalled here in verse 6 (and this is a big IF), it brings the image of God the Shepherd guiding David back to the sheep pen, which would have been at the “house of the Lord.” And by returning back to the Lord’s house, the sheep would know he is safe at home, where he will dwell for the rest of his days.

Dwelling in Peace
Arms resting on railingIn these difficult days of dealing with a pandemic, we could really use the reminder that if our life is in Christ, we can “return” to the house of the Lord and truly dwell. Too often our minds dwell on the negative, worry about the “what if,” yet God is inviting our hearts to dwell in His presence like a content sheep with its shepherd.

So if…

  • …your mind is worrying about the COVID-19 virus…

  • …you are mentally preoccupied with stress about work…

  • …you are constantly checking your stock portfolio or bank account…

  • …you are fidgeting from being confined to your home…

return to the house of the Lord and dwell in peace, because your Shepherd is still in control, even when the world around you seems to be confused or in chaos.

So rest. Breathe. And dwell in the house of the Lord forever and ever.

Look for the Blessings

By Erin Bird

Last week in our blog series on Psalm 23, we made it to verse 5, which says:

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Because we looked at the first half last week, let’s talk about the last two lines this week: “You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.”

God Gets Messy

In verse 5, David switched the language from pasture land (verses 1-4) to house language. Rather than talking about grass and still waters, David painted a mental picture of lounging at a table (while in the presence of enemies) as God prepared a meal.

David continues the imagery by talking about oil and cups.


In David’s day, it was customary to greet a guest to your home by putting oil on their head. Some biblical references give the idea of pouring the oil (such as Amos 6:6) while others give more of the imagery of a dab of oil (such as Luke 7:46) onto the person.

But why oil? Well, I think there were several reasons:

  • The people in David’s day enjoyed the scent of oil. Just like you might light a candle in your house before guests arrive, the anointing of oil upon someone’s head might have brought a pleasant scent to the room’s environment.
  • Oil was thought to have healthy medicinal qualities to it. To dab someone’s head with oil was to wish good health upon them.
  • Oil was somewhat expensive. To pour oil on someone’s head would be a sign of abundance, as if to say, “I have so much oil, I can lavish some upon you because you are important to me!”

So if putting oil on someone’s head was a sign of abundance, David keeps the idea going when he talked about his overflowing cup.


The standard drink at a meal like the one David is describing in verse 5 was wine. Like oil, wine was slightly more expensive than everyday items, so it, too, was given to guests as a sign of abundance and letting your guests know how much they matter to you.

Yet David doesn’t just have a full goblet of wine– his cup overflows! In the presence of enemies who wish harm upon him, David watches God continue to bless him, not just with a greeting of oil, but by pouring out so much wine that David’s cup overflows. That’s how much God loved David.

So as David sits in the presence of his enemies waiting upon God, He sees the blessings. He’s been touched with oil. He has an overflowing cup. He can see that even in the presence of evil, God’s blessing is still upon him.

Blessings & Viruses

Right now throughout the entire world, there are people panicked. Some healthcare workers are pulling double (and even triple) shifts. Hourly waged workers are wondering how they are going to pay their mortgage as their places of employment close temporarily. Parents are trying to figure out what to do with their kids who have had school put on hold. And the news about governmental responses to the virus seems to keep changing every hour.

But what if we stopped looking at the presence of our enemy (the COVID-19 virus), and pulled a David by looking for the blessings? What if we shifted our attention away from that which wishes us harm to what God has already abundantly provided? What if we…

  • stopped to realize the forced seclusion might allow us to finally spend time in the Scriptures?
  • saw the time at home with our children as an opportunity rather than a burden?
  • realized this was the perfect opportunity to serve an elderly neighbor?
  • picked up the phone and called someone we haven’t connected with in a while?
  • realized that no matter what happens with this virus, Jesus is still the King who died on the cross for our sins, and nothing can take that away?

So may you actually find rest this week in the abundance God has given you in the midst of these uncertain days. May you have a change of perspective because of God’s goodness shown to us through Jesus. And may you look for God’s blessings in these crazy times.

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